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McG’s TERMINATOR SALVATION is a good action film that doesn’t have much else outside the actual action. Thematically, the franchise has long relied on action sequences as a symbol for the characters, with the coldness of the machines’ killings traced back to the numbness of their creators and what it says of them; the counter-productive technophobia that we have and how its growth declines our own lives, with the constant use of mechanic tools – from guns to robots – slowly overwhelming the men. Indirectly, Cameron’s films make the people seem like the bad guys, with the machines as evidence of what is sometimes their failure: the loss of their ability to feel, and thus care about each other, as they kill themselves over time. TERMINATOR SALVATION continues this theme rather well, with Connor (Christian Bale) and the rest of the humans acting as the killing machines while they chase Marcus (Sam Worthington), blurring their differences with the robots while they’re at it. But once the violence stops, so does the competence to manifest this theme – or anything, for that matter.

Technically, the best way to describe this film is to say that it almost features a methodological imagination from the kind in Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece, CHILDREN OF MEN, but doesn’t contain the original vision to craft the kind of world Cuaron was able to set the action. McG is also reverent to Franchis Copolla’s APOCALYPSE NOW, in particular when Marcus is chased by Connor and the rest of the humans outside their base. But while the occasional technical influence from the Copollas and Cuarons is welcomed for the action sequences, the visionary influence – if not imitation – of the world it wants to present is not. The visual universe it is crafted in is too reminiscent to George Miller’s Mad Max franchise and Michael Bay’s Transformers films (scenes and visual imitations, like the attires and the robots, are too evocative to forgive).

All in all, when asked to have something unique in the world for the viewer visually, further than the violence, and when needed to explore the characters thematically, after the violence, it doesn’t add anything worth of a note. One wonders at McG’s handle of the screen for the action, but keep waiting for something that’s equally interesting to be set in visually, as then pieces of dialogue also turn cliché and flat, and most of the personal and emotional scenes cold and unimaginative. The war sequences, what it says about the characters and the way McG is able to craft it, are the saving grace in a film that doesn’t know what to do when it doesn’t have to be loud and has to present something unique in a deep vision.

The film wasn’t able to get to the finish-line, either. When served with the task to end with an epic finale, it falls into an uneven last act that is in a loss of focus, with a script that is at a lost on what do (after a film of constant war, it ends on a generic one-on-one fight), images jumping all over the place (the series of images from Marcus’ and Connor’s infiltrations and the blown submarine are as badly develop and paced as you can get, almost no good sense of transition between them) and a climax that is too reverent to – indeed, to another film – James Cameron’s JUDGMENT DAY (a factory in which everything that happened in Cameron’s second film somehow happens again, lava, ice and all). So much for the well-crafted action sequences that came before.

TERMINATOR SALVATION changes between admirable and occasionally impressive, and into mere good and sometimes mediocre. I was awed when Connor and his men went without hesitation after Marcus inside the forest: the irony of the relentless human machine that wouldn’t quit until it succeeds in its mission, like the robots they attack. It was the miniature apocalypse that the people raised by themselves and the smart resonance of APOCALYPSE NOW it had, as a demonization of humans and how their failure is to lose their definition as men who care, with the parallels between the machines attacking Marcus by the end of the sequence and Connor’s men at the beginning of it – all evidence that somehow McG and the writers of Catwoman got it. But then, it is soon followed by an unsubtle nod, an “I’ll be back” line that symbolizes the never-ending dependence on the past from the writers and the filmmaker, followed by more imitations to past films and a climactic scene in which a computerized Helena Bonham Carter is the face of Sky-Net – evidence, then, that whatever they got wasn’t enough.

One Response

  1. Terminator Salvation is a very good movie. It is obvious that even without Schwarzenegger the movie can be good. The action scenes are top-notch.

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